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Poor Assessment of Nursing Home Residents’ Pain — What Can Be Done?

December 16, 2009

A recent study sought to find out whether relatives and caregivers (proxies) understood residents’ pain well enough to assist in pain assessment and to discover what factors affected their judgments of pain. The findings showed, however, that their reports didn’t consistently match the pain ratings of nursing home residents themselves.

It’s particularly difficult to assess pain in cognitively impaired nursing home residents. This means that there’s a lot of suffering that goes untreated. This AJN article in the December issue discusses the findings of a new study on the topic and offers some recommendations we obtained from the study authors. Here’s another excerpt:

The authors suggest that pain management in nursing homes could be improved through caregiver education, including the implementation of pain assessment education in combination with treatment. They recommend basic training for nurses and nursing assistants on pain, pain behavior, and pharmacologic and nonpharmacologic pain treatment, such as “massage, applying warmth, mobility[, and] distractions with music or story telling.” They also suggest that “treatment effects could be determined more easily using a pain observation scale.”

So check out the article, and also let us know what else can we do to more accurately assess the pain of nursing home residents.

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